The weather is warming up and you know what that means, pet owners! Ticks and fleas… While they can be found all year round, these pesky and potentially deadly parasites thrive in the warm, humid weather of Spring and Summer, preying on all sorts of animals, including dogs, cats and humans.
Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure your dog or cat is protected during the warmer months and throughout the year. Read on to learn more about ticks and fleas, how to identify them and how to prevent and treat a bite or infestation.
What are fleas?
Fleas are 1-2mm long, reddish brown insects that jump from one animal to another, living on their skin and feeding on their blood.
Fleas can pose all sorts of dangers to you and your pet, including:
- irritation, ranging from mild discomfort to intense scratching, biting and restlessness
- flea allergy dermatitis, an allergic reaction that can cause severe skin reactions and infection in pets
- anaemia, especially in very young or old pets
- spread of fatal myxomatosis to rabbits
- transmission of a tapeworm infection to pets and humans
- transmission of a bacteria that causes a potentially serious disease called ‘bartonellosis’ in humans.
How to tell if your pet has fleas
As behavioural responses to fleas can vary from pet to pet, the best way to recognise fleas is through regular grooming. As fleas can be difficult to see, it’s best to look for the presence of flea dirt on the surface of your pet’s skin. Flea dirt is flea faeces, and it looks just like tiny specks of dirt. To properly identify flea dirt, carefully remove some of the specks from your pet and place them on a wet paper towel. If after a few minutes they spread out like a bloodstain, you’ve got fleas. You should always wear gloves when checking your pet for flea dirt. Flea dirt coming into contact with small breaks in the skin is the most common route of infection for cat scratch disease in people.
Other symptoms that may indicate a flea infestation include itching, redness of the skin, scabs and bald patches.
What are ticks?
Ticks feed on the blood of your dog or cat for days at a time, with adult ticks engorging to become approximately pea-sized. There are several species of ticks in NSW that use cats and/or dogs as hosts, including bush tick, brown dog tick and paralysis tick. Paralysis ticks are generally found in bushland and high grass along the east coast of Australia, whereas brown dog ticks don’t stray far from dogs.
Ticks can be extremely dangerous for domestic pets, causing everything from irritation to severe illness and death. They can also carry diseases that pose a serious threat to pets and humans.
How to tell if your pet has a tick
It’s important to check your pet regularly for ticks, especially if they have ventured into bushland. We recommend checking your pet for ticks every day, by running your fingers through your pet’s fur to feel for small bumps. Ticks particularly like to hide around the ears, eyelids, tail, under the collar, under the front legs, between the back legs and between the toes.
If your pet has been bitten by a tick, their symptoms may include:
- redness and swelling at the site of the bite
- weakness or loss of coordination in the hind legs
- changes in their voice
- retching, coughing or vomiting
- excessive salivation/drooling
- loss of appetite
- progressive paralysis
- difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
- other unusual behaviours/symptoms.
Flea and Tick Prevention
Unfortunately, fleas and ticks can be very difficult to avoid, so the best way to manage them is through prevention.
We recommend using Seresto Flea and Tick Collar, which is available for both dogs and cats*. The collars are a hassle-free, low maintenance way to kill and prevent fleas and ticks.
On dogs, the collar protects against fleas for up to 8 months, and repels and kills ticks and prevents the transmission of tick-born diseases for 4 months. On cats, the collar protects against fleas and flea-borne diseases, and repels and kills paralysis ticks for up to 8 months. Seresto repels ticks – to prevent them from attaching and biting, and kills fleas fast and on contact alone, so that there is no need for these parasites to bite your pet to be killed. This makes Seresto a good choice for controlling flea allergy dermatitis, and for preventing the transmission of fleas and tick-borne diseases. Seresto is odourless, water-resistant, and safe for pets and families.
Flea and Tick Treatment
If your pet has fleas, fitting a Seresto collar will kill them within 24-hours. After this time, fleas that jump onto a Seresto-treated pet will be killed within 2 hours.
If your pet has a tick, remove it as soon as possible. The best way to remove a tick is with a tick remover. Advantage Petcare has a great article that lists the steps for tick removal here.
Once you have removed a tick from your pet, we recommend taking the tick and your pet to the vet to identify whether it was a deadly paralysis tick and ensure your pet gets appropriate treatment.
Once you’ve checked and treated all household pets for fleas or ticks, it’s important to treat your home. Make sure to clean your pet’s bedding by washing it in hot water, and to vacuum any furniture/surfaces your pet has been in contact with. Some products, including Seresto, also help with this by killing flea larvae in your pet’s environment.
* Before starting any new flea/tick treatments, have a chat to your vet to ensure they are suitable for your pet.